How to Choose a Multivitamin

Posted: Apr 10, 2012

Vitamins and minerals help your body to work properly. Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods is the best way to get the nutrients that you need for health. For most people, eating the types and amounts of food recommended by Canada’s Food Guide provides the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Multivitamins are not recommended to prevent chronic diseases. You may need a multivitamin if you are not getting enough vitamins or minerals from your diet. A multivitamin is any supplement, often in pill form, that has more than one vitamin or mineral. Use the guidelines provided for your specific age and sex.


Supplements may be important for:

  • People with medical issues
  • Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding
  • Older adults – Men and women over 50
  • People who restrict certain foods from their diet
  • Children and adolescents
  • People who are unable to follow Canada’s Food Guide

Multivitamins & Healthy Eating


Eat well and include food from all four food groups from Canada's Food Guide every day. Multivitamins only help to supplement vitamins and minerals. They do not provide energy, protein, or fibre that you get from food. Multivitamins should not be used to replace healthy eating.

What Should I Look For?


Multivitamins can add nutrients that may be missing from your diet. Brand is not important.

When taking a multivitamin always keep in mind the dosage and follow the directions listed on the label.

Some multivitamins target specific groups of people, for example, pregnant women or men or women over 50 years.  Finding the multivitamin that more closely matches who you are is a good place to start.

Safety and Risks

With multivitamins, if a little is good more is not always better. Even though multivitamins are sold over the counter, always follow the directions listed on the bottle and the advice of your health care professional.

Take your multivitamin with food and drink a glass of water. Avoid taking multivitamins with other medications.

Look for multivitamins with a NPN or DIN number on the label. Those with a NPN or DIN number on the label have been assessed by Health Canada. They are considered safe, of high quality, and do what they claim.

Non-medicinal ingredients that are used to bind and keep the product stable are also safe in products with a NPN or DIN number.

Understanding Units

Many different units like milligram (mg), microgram (abbreviated mcg or μg) and international units (IU), can be found on multivitamin labels. Units are used to show the quantity of a vitamin or mineral. Amounts of vitamin A, D, and E are usually written as IUs, while mg and mcg are used for other vitamins and for minerals.